22 April 2010

How I Met My House

I'm going to a party today! AnNicole at Our Suburban Cottage is hosting. We're all going to sit around on the virtual front porch telling the stories of how we met our homes. I call the porch swing.

Last year at this time we were living in Spain. I know, fantastic. We were there for two years doing missions work. Loved it. My posts from 2007, 2009 & early 2009 are from that time. Check them out on the sidebar!

Before we went, we sold our 3+ bedroom, 2 bath house. Granted, it was a small starter house, but it was big enough for us & our frequent guests. We actually made a good profit from the sale of that house (which is a whole other story about God's grace in allowing us to sell in a pretty scary market). We used a little bit of it to live on between the time our jobs ended & we moved to Spain, but the rest we saved. No touching until we could buy a house again.

So here is our list of living arrangements after selling our house: 3 months in a 5th wheel, 6 months in our boss's basement (one big room), 1 1/2 years in a tiny one bedroom apartment, then another 5 months in the 5th wheel. All this while the majority of our belongings are in storage. Being a homebody, I really (hope I) learned that home is so not about the stuff you put in it or how big it is. I can make a comfortable, relaxing home for us just about anywhere. It doesn't have to look amazing.

So starting about fall of 2008, I began stalking real estate websites. We didn't know what we would be doing or where we would be going after we left Spain. There was even the possibility that we would make Spain a more permanent home. But there's this part of me that needs to have something to plan for. Thus the stalking. I ended up focusing on the city we had lived in before and the surrounding small communities.

I'm cheap. Thrifty. Whatever you want to call it. Not knowing what our incomes would be when we moved back to the States, the crazy cheap part of me started looking for houses under $50k. "What??," you say, "You wanted to live in a shack down by the river?"

Let me just say that after months of searching real estate sites in our area, I am confident in saying that it is absolutely possible to buy a house in that price range (or less) that is NOT a dump or in an area where you need bars on the windows. First, we are in the Midwest, so house prices are lower. Second, smaller towns close to cities have great options for lower priced homes. We had to decide what our priorities were. Were we ok with a 30 minute commute to the nearby city? Were we willing to pay more in gas and less in mortgage? Yes.

Ok, enough jabbering from me. That was a long intro. Meet our house:

Yes. It's not a lovely little cottage. In fact, "cottage" is a generous description. But here's the deal. When I found this place online (on a local real estate site, while we were still living in Spain), it was listed at $49k. It is in a town that is about 20 miles from our city. It had 2 bedrooms & one bathroom, which honestly, was enough for the two of us (especially after living in such small quarters for almost 3 years). I checked it about every week. When we moved back to the States & contacted our real estate agent, Mary, I had narrowed the search down to this one town. We spent ONE DAY looking. We saw about 5 houses that day, 4 of them complete dumps that would have taken LOTS of money to fix up, not to mention the MOLD. Gross.

When we walked into what is now our house, it was not what I expected, in good ways & bad.

Bad news: it was a foreclosure, sold as is, which included a house full of trash - furniture, dirt, leaves, mud, poo, pizza boxes, dead plants, etc. The smell was...not pleasant. The paint colors were...bold. Good news: it was bigger than it looked in the photos. The structure was sound. The character (built in bookcases with columns, french doors, thick baseboards) was intact. The kitchen & electrical had been updated a couple of years before. Honestly, even though this house was the dirties & cheapest, it was the BEST house we looked at that day. And by that time, the bank was so desperate to get it off of their hands that the price had been slashed in half. We (& Mary) believed that this house was truly a blessing from God!

Take a tour of our house as it was the day we met it!

It's much better now.

Not finished yet, but is a house ever finished?

Here is our plan for this house: make it not only livable, but lovely, add function (paint the exterior, put another bedroom & bathroom in the basement, rebuild the enclosed back porch to include laundry, office space & mudroom, build 2-car garage), pay it off in 5-7 years and live in this house as long as we can. This is NOT our forever house, but it is a tool for us to get our dream house. We don't have a lot of money, but we don't think we NEED a lot if we use what we have wisely.

My self-imposed rules for decorating this house is to use only second hand, things on major clearance, things I make, or things we already have. I don't look at it as a negative. I love the challenge. Maybe because I'm UberCheap, but my preference really is older stuff with a unique history. And there are so many other things we could spend our money on than lamps & furniture & doodads. Game on!

This house has a history. It was built in 1913. It has been loved by many who have put their own stamp on it. It has been unloved by a few. We are happy to be a part of this house's heritage. Sometime in the future, someone else will live here. They might make snarky comments about things we chose to change (like I have about the smurf & turquoise paint combo!), but I hope they love it and even more, that they contribute to the good things that happen in this house. I hope that it is a place of peace and joy. I hope that this house is home for many to come.

How did you meet your house? Come hang out with us at AnNicole's place & hear everyone else's stories. Tell your own!

07 April 2010

Little spring things that make me happy: turquoise & fringe

thrifted fringy turquoise table cloth

Not much blogging going on here. Too much work...and flu-ish yuckiness...

But Spring is here!!! The daffodils and hyacinths are coming up all over town. The snow is gone. That's the best part. No freezing cold, dirty, wetness.

I don't know why, but this table cloth brings a smile to my face. It's a happy color and I like the thick fringe. I know it's nothing important in the large scope of life. But when I see things in our house that need to be done that I don't know when I'll get to, when I think about unencouraging issues with infertility & adoption, and any number of other stupid things I could fixate on, seeing something that brightens my day helps me to focus on things that I really am thankful for - the things that do matter. My faith in God, health, family, friends, the good man that I married.

I know it's just a table cloth. I'm not going to get dramatic about it. :)

What kinds of things help you to focus on what's really important? There's gotta be something.